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Sunshine, Sombreros, and Snow-cones, Oh My!

During all of the stress over the past couple of months, one thing that my husband and I have not had to obsess over is the care of my mother-in-law, Vivian. Her advancing dementia has been a major concern for both of us because this disease has dramatically progressed since she first moved to Senior Star at Elmore Place almost a year ago. One of the big draws for her to live there was the engagement she could have with other residents. We knew there were regular activities and outings that could allow socialization. Unfortunately, despite Vivian’s normally social nature, she opted not to participate in activities. Part of this seclusion occurred when she wasn’t feeling well and simply didn’t want to leave her room. But a larger part of her chosen seclusion had a lot to do with the visual and audible hallucinations she was experiencing. She often feared that she wasn’t safe.

While she adjusted to her new living arrangement, it took us a while to connect the dots and realize that her fears had a great deal to do with the world news on CNN or MSNBC that she watched on a regular basis. She wasn’t able to separate what was being broadcast on the news from other parts of the world with what was happening outside her windows. We were unable to convince her that she was safe. All we could do was nod and smile and reassure her that we would check into the homeless families living in her ceiling or the men with guns outside the building or down the road. We learned in a dementia support group meeting that trying to convince a dementia patient that what they see or hear is not really there is a futile effort. All we could do was acknowledge her concerns and try to convince her she was safe for that moment. This is how her first six months went.

Earlier this year, it was recommended that she move to the Memory Care unit at Senior Star due to her health problems and advancing dementia. After they stabilized her health needs and she was able to move into her new room at Memory Care, we started to see a remarkable change. They were able to not only convince her to eat in the dining room, but also to participate regularly in activities with other residents. The care partners have not only made sure she gets dressed every day, but they do her hair, and they've even painted her nails.

After a required period of quarantine, and with no residents or staff being diagnosed with COVID-19, residents were able to start spending time together again. The staff has done an amazing job helping Vivian and the other residents maintain as normal a living environment as possible despite the quarantine restrictions. While residents haven’t been allowed to receive visits from family or friends, staff have gone the extra mile to arrange window visits or video calls to connect residents with their loved ones.

My favorite thing, however, is the lack of worry my husband and I have experienced regarding Vivian’s care. Senior Star staff members post pictures of activities on Facebook and I’m always so thrilled to see Vivian not only participating but smiling constantly. While she still has hallucinations and will occasionally mention her old concerns, Scott and I are so relieved to know she is in good hands!

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